Friday, September 9, 2011

Unsolicited advice

Yesterday I set a boundary with a friend around unsolicited advice. She had responded (privately) to a recent blog post and offered an interpretation of my dilemma that made suggestions as to how I could resolve the issue. "If you were..." I guess it never occurred to her that I might already know what she was proposing, or that I might have considered that idea and rejected it, or that the issue might be more complex than what I had revealed in the blog. I chafed at her advice and then wrote and asked her not to do that in the future.

As a chronic fixer, I know how tempting it is to see the solution for someone else and want to offer it to them, even when we can't do anything about our own stuck places. Been there, done that, over and over. In fact, over the decades of my life, I have doled out probably thousands if not more pieces of advice to friends, to students, to clients, much of it unsolicited and probably a lot of it unwelcome.

Going to thousands of AA meetings and working as a sponsor has helped cure me of most of that. At meetings, there is no crosstalk. You don't give advice, you don't even comment on what someone else says. You share your own experience, strength, and hope instead. And as a sponsor, you learn pretty quickly that your advice, especially unsolicited, will not keep you or the the sponsee sober. Only actions make a difference.

Last year, I had a very painful experience around this with someone close to me. I was going through a rough growing-up patch and needed support and understanding. I got taken to task by two women I considered friends and mentors and a lot of unsolicited advice about my behavior that didn't take my feelings into account. I really saw in those two incidences how damaging my own attempts to fix others have probably been and how killing it is to a relationship.

Now, I do my best to ask if the person is open to suggestions before I offer advice although I do even that very sparingly. Most of the time I just keep such advice to myself.

I think this is especially important as concerns blog posts. Most of us who write intimate blogs do it to share our feelings. We aren't looking for external solutions or the advice of someone else, we're looking for our own inner knowings. And we welcome the shared experiences of others.

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